Monday April 22, 2019
Disclosures Outside 6(b) Occurred for Year-Plus; CR Rebuffs Return Requests
CPSC's recurring disclosures of companies' information outside 6(b) procedures happened for over a year, and at least one recipient has rejected the agency's request to return or certify destruction of the materials. Correspondences from CPSC, seen by PSL, confirm that the problem had begun by late 2017 and continued through at least the early part of 2019. The quantity of disclosures is unknown to PSL.
Consumer Reports was one recipient (see related story) and has declined the agency's return/destruction requests. Types of information received by that organization included summaries of both incident reports and in-depth investigations (IDIs). However, the disclosures apparently did not include original, underlying information – at least according to correspondence reviewed by PSL.
Elsewhere, the initial April 11 emails from CPSC – sent to multiple companies, possibly in various industries – said examples of released information included model names and numbers plus identification of companies.
Both the initial and the follow-up emails involved CPSC's Epidemiology office. Its duties include oversight of agency databases like NEISS and MECAP as well as the National Injury Information Clearinghouse. Compare those jobs to control of release via other mean such as Freedom of Information, overseen by the Secretariat.
Interestingly, the follow-ups maintain a layer of confidentiality. They refer to disclosed information only generically but give the recipients a way to find out even more details – numbers CPSC assigned to documents and previously supplied to the companies.
The follow-ups also show that as of their writing, CPSC did not know the breadth of the problem, explaining that the agency still was determining if similar information went to other recipients.
The agency April 15 clarified to PSL that companies getting initial notifications must confirm receipt to receive additional specific details about their cases. A special, between-issues PSL story (bit.ly/2KHPka3) explained that situation. It included a contact email for such correspondences: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPSC has not yet answered a list of questions from PSL. In the meantime, spokesman Joe Martyak April 18 offered this statement: "CPSC is taking immediate steps to address the release of unauthorized information, and efforts to remediate the error are ongoing."